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‘Cinderella’ Is Delight at New York City Opera

November 10, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ ″Cinderella,″ by Rodgers and Hammerstein, is a thorough, total delight at the New York City Opera, full to overflowing with magic and romance.

It’s marvelously cast and staged, a pleasure in design, color and sound. Songs include ″In My Own Little Corner,″ ″Impossible,″ ″Ten Minutes Ago,″ ″A Lovely Night″ and ″Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?″

The opera also is very funny.

The company is ending its 50th anniversary season with 14 performances of ″Cinderella.″ The first, Tuesday night in the New York State Theater, marked the New York stage premiere of the show. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote it, more as an operetta than a musical comedy, for television in 1957.

Sally Ann Howes, who once starred in ″My Fair Lady,″ sang the Fairy Godmother in a clear soprano. Crista Moore, who starred in this company’s ″110 in the Shade″ last season, has a voice pure enough to sound young and with enough vibrato to have character.

As the prince, George Dvorsky, who made his New York City Opera debut in ″Brigadoon,″ sang with steadily increasing confidence and maturity.

Nancy Marchand, who has the speaking voice to convey aristocratic authority, used it to splendid effect as Cinderella’s Stepmother. She even sang a little, very nicely. The Stepsisters were a hoot, as they should be. Jeanette Palmer had the high-pitched voice and maniacal laugh. Alix Korey sometimes projected like Ethel Merman in ″Annie Get Your Gun.″

Broadway veterans played the King and Queen: George S. Irving, notable in ″Me and My Girl,″ and Maria Karnilova, the original Golde in ″Fiddler on the Roof,″ were warm as a loving couple hoping for such love for their son.

Marchand, Korey and Karnilova were making company debuts. So were Andrew Pacho and Debbie Fuhrman as Cinderella’s acrobatic dog and cat.

In many versions of ″Cinderella,″ the Stepsisters provide all the humor. This book, by Oscar Hammerstein II, adapted for the stage by Steve Allen and adapted for the opera stage by Robert Johanson, has more humor than that. The Fairy Godmother, Stepmother and King have funny lines. An inept ballerina has funny moves.

Costumes were lavish. Use of space was imaginative. Not only did director Robert Johanson use the front of the stage for action while scenery was being shifted, but he often spotlighted chorus members in boxes closest to the stage. ″If I Weren’t King,″ a song written but not used for the TV broadcast, had its premiere by Irving on Tuesday. ″Loneliness of Evening,″ written for Lt. Cable in ″South Pacific″ but cut, was used in the 1965 TV remake of ″Cinderella,″ and sung for the first time on stage by Dvorsky. ″My Best Love,″ cut from ″Flower Drum Song″ before its Broadway opening in 1958, also was added. Its sentiments fit perfectly as King sings it to his son.

Eric Stern, a Broadway conductor, made his company debut.

Program notes say that more than 200 stage productions of ″Cinderella″ were licensed in 1992. No wonder. It’s low on conflict, high on happiness.

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